A call against brutality

January 2024 is coming to an end, and, already, the Winnipeg Police Service has killed another person.

The new year began with the killing of 19-year-old Afolabi Opaso, an international student from Nigeria studying at the University of Manitoba. Winnipeg police were there for a wellness check for Opaso, who was experiencing a mental-health crisis. They shot him dead.

Then, just after midnight on Jan. 27, police were called regarding a domestic disturbance. By the time they arrived, the man they were there to see to was already lying asleep in the parking lot. Multiple videos show the torrent of violence they swiftly inflicted on him. When the man didn’t immediately wake up and comply with the cops’ demands, he was Tasered, piled upon, pinned to the ground and beaten with a baton.

The cops administered no medical help to the unconscious man, who wasn’t treated until an ambulance arrived 21 minutes later. By Saturday evening, he was dead. Witnesses to the beating, and criminologists who viewed the video, told the Free Press that the man was not being aggressive or resisting.

This is exhausting. In my decade covering local news, I’ve seen this story time and time again. Police arrive at a scene, immediately default to excessive force, people die, and cops aren’t held accountable. Police violence in this city is out of control and has been for a long time.

We can’t keep pretending that the police will keep us safe. Winnipeg has seen a wave of violent crime recently – and the wildly overfunded police aren’t doing anything to curb that violence. Instead, they’re sending out puffy press releases about the 40th anniversary of Crimestoppers.

City leadership needs to stop throwing money at this violent, broken institution and start funding those who help people instead of killing them.

Published in Volume 78, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 1, 2024)

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